When it comes to sunscreens we have thousands of different choices. Trying to make a decision as to which will suit you best, can be a very tricky task.
What are all the ingredients on the back? Which are safe, which work the best, which are reef friendly, which ones won’t flare up your child’s eczema?
There is a lot to consider when choosing but have you ever really considered what the ingredients in your sunscreen are and whether they are actually harmful or toxic to you and your family?
Many ingredients in sunscreen can cause skin irritations, are hormone disruptors and environmental toxins. Finding the most natural and safest choice is important both for protecting your body and the environment.
I compared 4 different sunscreens by analysing their ingredients.
When I compared them I looked at the data of each ingredient and whether it has the potential to cause us or the environment any harm.
What I found was actually quite shocking!
“Sunscreens commonly include ingredients that act as “penetration enhancers” and help the product adhere to skin. As a result, many sunscreen chemicals are absorbed into the body and can be measured in blood, breast milk and urine samples” Enviromental working group
The way in which sunscreens work are that the ingredients used block the UVA and UBA rays from entering our skin, like a shield. They can either be a chemical barrier or a mineral barrier such as zinc or titanium dioxide which are found in most natural sunscreens.
TGA approved sunscreens undergo the same scrutiny whether they are chemical or mineral based, so either work at protecting you as well as the other.
If you have a sunscreen in your cupboard from last summer, get it out and check the back. Does it contain any of these ingredients?
- 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor
If your sunscreen contains any of those ingredients it is a chemical based sunscreen and unfortunately has the potential to cause you harm or allergic/skin reactions. These are extremely common ingredients in sunscreens, along with Parfum/Fragrance and varying preservatives.
When choosing a sunscreen, be aware of what is in it. Yes it is protecting you from the sun but it is also absorbing into your body. There are much safer alternatives which will still give you the same protection.
What did I find in my own research into 4 sunscreens?
The four I researched were:
- Hamilton (supermarket/chemist)
- We Are Feel Good Inc (chemist/specialty stores/health shops)
- Cancer Council Peppa Pig (supermarket/chemist)
- 123 Nourish Me (natural stores/health shops)
This is a much used sunscreen across families because it is classed as gentle. When I read the ingredients list however, I wasn’t surprised that I have had parents in my field of work (kinder teaching), tell me that their child’s eczema flares up after using this at kinder.
Firstly; just the preservatives in this are well known for their skin irritation. (Phenoxyethanol, Benzyl Alcohol).
Then; the active ingredients aren’t so great for you either. Below are the concerning ones.
Octyl Salicylate: There is data on human case studies which show possible immune or allergenic effects. This is also a suspected environmental toxin.
Homosalate : Research indicates that it is a weak hormone disruptor and that sunlight breaks down the chemical into harmful by products.
Octocrylene: May cause allergic skin reactions in sensitive individuals. Is restricted in its use in Japan and is suspected or measured to accumulate in people. It is also found to be persistent and bio accumulative in wildlife.
This sunscreen only shows the active ingredients and preservatives, I’m very confident there would be other nasty ingredients hidden but unfortunately, by law, they only have to state the active ingredients. Hormone disruptors, environmental toxins, restricted in other countries. Those ingredients don’t sound like something very good for your skin or body do they? You might be protecting your skin from sun damage but what is it doing on the inside?
We Are Feel Good Inc:
This one is a little misleading, the wording makes you think it is a natural sunscreen. They say “Our formulas are PRESERVATIVE, PABA & PARABEN FREE. We have also removed reef harming UV filters, OXYBENZONE & OCTINOXATE from our sunscreens.”
Its great they don’t use those few ingredients, however, they still have Homosalate & Octocrylene which are in the top 7 NO NO’S. These are both hormone disrupting chemicals. According to the Environment Canada Domestic Substance List, Homosalate is classified as; expected to be toxic or harmful. It is also suspected to be an environmental toxin. While Octocrylene has concerns over biochemical or cellular level changes. This also is the first chemical sunscreen in this list to show the FULL list of ingredients which shows Parfum & Triethanolamine which are synthetic fragrances. These are also hormone disruptive and classified, as expected, to be toxic or harmful. That is an awful lot of Hormone disrupting chemicals in one brown bottle!
Cancer Council Kids Sunscreen:
In it there were many ingredients I was worried about. The biggest concerning ingredient however was 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor. This is a rating 7 on the Environmental working group’s toxicity scale.
European Commission on Endocrine Disruption has concluded that there is strong evidence that it is a human endocrine/hormone disruptor. This ingredient has a long list of toxicity and harmful effects such as developmental effects at low doses on test subjects and it is suspected or measured to accumulate in people. This is not a nice ingredient and I would suggest that you stay away from this at all costs! This is another sunscreen which only shows the active ingredients and preservatives, so we are unaware of any other questionable hidden ingredients.
123 Nourish Me:
Our new 123 Nourish ME sunscreen is TGA approved. This means it has gone through the same procedures as the sunscreens above. The biggest difference however, is that every ingredient in this sunscreen has no data saying it is harmful or toxic to us or harmful to the environment. This is a mineral based sunscreen using NON nano zinc, oils and beeswax. No nasty chemical UV blockers.
So what next?
When choosing sunscreens, remember that many on the market do have toxic and harmful ingredients. Just think how many times a day would you put sunscreen onto yourself or your child. How many times a week? When you put chemicals onto your bodies over and over again, your body doesn’t have the capacity to detox from it. It can’t detox because more toxins are constantly entering it. Some toxins we can’t even avoid as they are environmental. In order to help your body release any toxins you need to ensure it is having the least amount enter it as possible. You can do this by choosing natural products to use on your skin, hair and around you.
Sunscreen is something we all use in Australia and our exposure is very high to it. So it’s super important to ensure no harmful toxins from sunscreens are being absorbed into your skin. Choosing a mineral based sunscreen without those nasty toxins is the best choice you can make for youself and your family.
If you choose to stay away from chemically based sunscreens there are some important things to be aware of:
Some will be labelled as ‘zinc based’ but can still have some of the top 7 chemicals in the formulations. So always check the back.There is a lot of misleading when it comes to labels. It is also very important to choose NON nano zinc. Zinc, if nano-sized, can absorb into your body and the environment. Usually if it is NON nano it will say so, if it’s not labelled, assume it is unsafe until you can contact the company. Check if it has Phenoxyethanol or benzyl alcohol as these can cause and flare up skin irritations. Look for a preservative free option, for the safest choice.